Russia slams Britain's 'theatre of absurd' over alleged spy
Russia on Wednesday launched an extraordinary attack on Britain's legal pursuit of an alleged secret agent, accusing London of a "spymania" that resembled a "theatre of the absurd".
Katya Zatuliveter, 25, who was detained earlier this month and worked in parliament for a Liberal Democrat lawmaker, faces deportation on suspicion of espionage in a case that has renewed Russia-Britain tensions.
"This whole shambles -- which is hardly typical of the well-oiled British bureaucratic machine -- raises many questions," a foreign ministry source told the Interfax news agency in a statement.
"This whole story... could have been just a 'storm in a tea cup' if it had not been accompanied by an outburst of paranoid spymania which appeared just as there was a dawn in Russian-British relations.
"What has happened to the Russian girl can be seen simply as a theatre of the absurd," it added.
It said the reasons given for London's pursuit of Zatuliveter had not been consistent and it was not clear what she was accused of.
"The Foreign Office just kicks us towards the border agency, but there is no clarity there either," the statement lamented.
Expressing concern about her moral reputation, it added: "What's sad is that few have shown any interest in the reputation of a 25-year-old girl or the elementary norms of ethics."
British domestic intelligence agency MI5 said she was working for the Russian intelligence service as a "sleeper" agent, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.
Britain's diplomatic relations with Russia are only just emerging from an icy period after the murder by poisoning of the dissident Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
Russian officials have in recent months spoken of a possible reset in Moscow-London ties after the Conservative-Liberal coalition under Prime Minister David Cameron came to power in elections.
© 2010 AFP